I'm having some ongoing low back pain. My health insurance covers a visit with a doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist. Which one should I go to?

If there is a medical reason for your pain, then a medical doctor should be the first choice. Any of your choices (medical doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist) can examine you and rule out any serious problems.

Let's look at some of today's research results on this topic. Studies comparing these three treatments for nonspecific back pain report the following:

  • No big differences are found in results between chiropractic or physical therapy care.
  • Some studies show spinal manipulation is slightly better than treatment without manipulation.
  • An educational booklet may be just as good as hands-on treatment.
  • Patients seem more satisfied with chiropractic care than with medical care.
  • Medical advice without further treatment results in fewer costs and fewer sick days.

    Based on research results, you may want to start with learning more about back pain and back care. If your symptoms don't go away then a short course of manual therapy may be in order.

    A chiropractor or a physical therapist may be the next step. Long-term results are always the best for patients who exercise consistently, correctly, and regularly. This includes a general exercise program as well as specific exercises for the spine.